When I first started writing fanfiction, one of the hardest things for me was trying to understand all the strange words in it. Things that I’d never heard before, words that I knew but with different definitions, all of it was very confusing.
My goal with this site is to help people new to the fanfic world (either as a reader or a writer), so I decided to put together a glossary of fanfiction terms and definitions. I gathered this info from a number of different sites, including the ones below. Some words I defined myself, not being able to find a definition anywhere else. Some words are used in fandom in general and not just fanfiction, but since they tend to come up when reading fanfic, I included them as well.
I doubt that this is a complete list, considering how much fanfiction continues to grow. But I hope that it will help people out.
If you see any errors, missing words that need to added to the list, missing definitions to the words already here, etc, feel free to let me know.
References used to compile this glossary:
Link to Ms. NitpickersFanfic Glossary (great resource!, highly recommended)
/ – slash mark (see also “slash” below): A symbol that, in addition to its normal meaning of adding more than one subject together, can also mean that two characters are together romantically. Example: “Harry/Hermione” means that the story contains reference to Harry and Hermione being a romantic couple.
! – exclamation point: Usually shown between an adjective and a character’s name, to show that the character will have that trait in the story. Example: “Hurt!Tony” means that the story will feature Tony getting hurt physically at some point.
A/N:Author’s note, when the author wants to create an aside to explain something.
A/U or AU: Alternate Universe. Although technically ALL fanfiction is AU, since it isn’t canon, the term is reserved for stories that lift parts of the show out and put them in a totally different setting. Non-AU fanfiction tries to carry on within the limits of the actual show–perhaps showing scenes in between the aired events, or creating a story that could be an episode of the show without confusing anyone too much.
ACTOR FICTION: Also known as RL FICTION or RPF or REAL PEOPLE FICTION: fiction written about real people such as actors, politicians, athletes and musicians. Due to the nature of the stories – being about real people as opposed to fictional characters – there are some people who disagree on whether or not RPF is genuine ‘fan fiction'; most RPF does seem to be written by fans, but some believe true ‘fan fiction’ requires a fictional canon. Some major fan fiction archives (such as fanficiton.net) have a moratorium on RPF, usually citing legal concerns or a definition of ‘fan fiction’ that requires a fictional source for its canon.
ALTERNATIVE ENDING: Author writing a different ending to a tv show, movie, book,etc.
ANGST: Refers to the emotional wounds suffered and/or borne by a character, especially if they spend pages moaning about their miserable life in great detail.
ANIME: Japanese animation. A popular area for fanfiction.
BETA or BETA READER: A person who reads a rough draft of a story and provides proofreading for punctuation/spelling and/or criticism for characterizations/plot.
CANON: Anything which appeared in the actual series/movie and therefore can be “proven” to be a genuine aspect of the show or character.
CHALLENGE: A challenge issued to writers, generally having certain conditions such as usage of particular words, phrases, lyrics or situation.
COLLAB: Short for “collaboration”. A fanfic written by several authors working together. May involve different authors for different chapters, or all authors working together on the entire fic.
CON: Short for “convention”. A con is a gathering of fans. Some cons focus on a specific fandom; others, like Comic Con, are media-wide.
CRACK or CRACK FIC: Named after the drug to imply that it can only be the product of a deranged mind, crack fic is identified by its random, nonsensical contents. The plotline might be twisted into a knot, the fic might be a thick parody, or the fic might feature an unlikely or rare pairing (“crack pairing”). Generally these are humor pieces.
CROSSOVER: Sometimes this appears as X/O or Xover. A story which involves two or more different shows.
DARK: “Dark” refers to plots which introduce elements such as death, violence, betrayal or loss. “Dark” fan fiction builds upon preexisting emotional attachments that readers have with the characters for dramatic effect. It may also refer to fics where the main characters, when heroes, turn evil or just more aggressive (Example: Harry Potter becoming a Dark Wizard, Luke Skywalker becoming a Sith Lord, etc.)
DEATHFIC: A story in which a character, usually major, dies. They also will occasionally deal with things like funerals, characters recovering from people they love dying or, usually after the death of a loved one, the character committing suicide.
DISCLAIMER: Also known as HEADER INFO. Traditionally put at the top of the story, a disclaimer may include a legal disclaimer announcing that you don’t make money at this and don’t want to infringe on the creators’ rights; spoilers and warnings such as “character death”; a brief plot summary; a mention of distribution–what archives can post this piece without asking you for permission; a dedication or thank you to beta readers; something about story length; which chapter this is (with the format 1/5 meaning part one of five parts); and so on. Different archives and mailing lists may require different information.
DRABBLE: Writing drabble is similar to saying, “I’ve written some really cool dialogue, or conceived a neat scene that has no plot or point, and rather than come up with a story to put it in, I’m just going to post it and wait for praise.” Similar to PWP, except limited to one hundred words.
EP: Episode of a TV show.
EPISODE TAG: See TAG
F/F: Also known as “Femslash.” Designates a story or fanzine focussing on a homosexual relationship between women. The story itself may involve no actual sex scenes or ‘offensive’ content.
FANDOM: A collective term used to describe all fans and their activities.
FANFICCER: A person who writes fanfiction.
FANON: “Fanon” is a detail about a particular show or character that was created by a fan but has now been generally borrowed/copied/accepted as canon by many other writers.
FANZINE or ‘ZINE: A print (or online) magazine with fanfiction, art, poetry and other fan goodies.
FEMSLASH: See F/F
FEN: A plural form of “fan.”
FIC: Short for “fanfiction”. Used as a noun. Example: “I read a good fic last night”.
FILK: As a noun, this refers to a parody song with a scientific or science fiction leaning to the replacement lyrics. As a verb, to sing songs that parody a known tune but contain lyrics relating to science/sci fi/fantasy/media.
FLAME: Vicious attack on a writer for bad writing or for daring to write a story with a pairing or subject that repulses the reader, etc.
FLUFF (aka SCHMOOP): A genre in which the story is devoid of angst and takes on a mood of light-hearted romance. While the terms “fluff” and “schmoop” are interchangeable in the broad scope of fan fiction, individual fandoms tend to adopt one term or the other for this genre of fic.
GEN: General or non-romantic, used as an official subgenre category on many archives, including fanfiction.net. There is some controversy about what qualifies as a “gen fic”, but usually it denotes a story in which there is no sex and any and all romance is a background element of the story, while the main plot centers around non-romantic themes.”Gen fics” also tend to lack a specific focus of any kind. They are not focused around any particular genre (romance, comedy or humor, tragedy or angst, adventure, drama, fantasy, horror, mystery, sci-fi, suspense, etc.). If the author can’t fit their story in to one (or sometimes two) of those categories, they may label it a “general” fic.
h/c, H/C, HURT/COMFORT: One or more characters will be hurt (physically or emotionally or mentally), and one or more characters will suffer angst over this and try to comfort the victim. This is a popular category within fanfiction.
HET: Story or fanzine with explicit scenes of heterosexual sexual acts.
IC: IC is an acronym which stands for In Character, and refers to the behavior of (usually canon) characters which seems logical given what is known about them and their previous behavior in canon.
LOC: “Letter of Comment.” Also known as FEEDBACK: A response a reader gives to a writer about a story or chapter of a story. Usually given as a “comment” in a messageboard environment, or in the case of fanfiction.net, given using a “review” form.
LEMON AND LIME: Explicit sex stories in general, especially in anima fan fiction, are known as lemon, lemony-goodness, and lemonade – a term which comes from a Japanese slang term meaning “sexy” that itself derives from an early pornographic cartoon series called Cream Lemon. The term lime denotes a story that has sexual themes but is not necessarily explicit. “Lemon” stories without much plot other than sex are also referred to as smutfics or as PWP’s (“Porn Without Plot” or “Plot? What Plot?”).
LURKER: Member of a mailing list, messageboard, or other forum who rarely if ever directly posts or comments, instead remaining “invisible.”
M/M: designates a story or fanzine focused on a homosexual relationship between two males. The story itself may involve no actual sex scenes or offensive content.
MARY SUE: A character who is clearly the author’s alter ego and therefore incredibly perfect; incredibly beautiful–often with unusually colored eyes/hair; incredibly talented–often gifted musically and magically; has a tragic past; and is either related to or beloved by one or more of the show’s main characters. Mary Sue may die in the arms of a series character, having given her all. Occasionally appears as a male, but because it’s less common there is no commonly accepted name for the male: some references include Harry Sue, Barry Sue, or Marty Stu. Mary Sue as a term originated in fandom for the original STAR TREK series, when Paula Smith wrote a humorous piece about the incredibly perfect Lieutenant Mary Sue saving the Enterprise.
MISSING SCENE: A story that fills in what could have happened between scenes from an aired tv show or movie, book, etc.
MOVIEVERSE: “Movieverse” as a term refers to the film adaptations of books, games, etc.; the term is used both in the context of comparison/contrast between different versions of canon (such as in Jurassic Park, and many comic book movies where the storyline and characters of each may differ greatly) and to mark stories which are based explicitly and exclusively on the film adaptation.
MPREG: short for Male Pregnancy and is most often used in fan fiction to describe the surprising occurrence of pregnant males. It is most typically seen in male/male pairings, but has occasionally sprung up in other situations. Is most commonly used as an adjective.
MST: Inspired by the cable series MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000, MSTing a story means taking someone else’s story and adding in your own smart-alec comments, mocking it.
N/C or NON-CON: Nonconsensual. These initials warn you that the story will involve rape in some form.
NEWBIE: A raw newcomer to any online group/place/genre, sometimes less charitably called a “virgin,” or in older circles a “neofan” (“neo” for short). Often not meant cruelly but as a simple statement of fact.
OC or ORIGINAL CHARACTER:. a character created by the author of the fan fiction, as opposed to one already existing in canon. OMC is an original male character, and OFC is an original female character, though the more general and gender-neutral OC label is more prevalent.
ONE-SHOT: A fanfiction story that is only one chapter long, to which the author expects never to add any additional chapters, nor write a sequel.
OOC: Stands for Out of Character. Used by authors to warn that a character in their story may behave, speak, etc, differently than expected from canon.
OT: Denotes an off-topic message on a mailing list or messageboard
OTP: Stands for One True Pairing. This term is used by authors to indicate they believe the characters in question are meant to be together. The term can be used ironically as well, and a person can have several different OTPs with a common character, such as Kirk/Spock and Kirk/Uhura. OT3, a variation on OTP, stands for One True Threesome. It describes a similar situation in which three characters (usually all from canon) are romantically and sexually linked. The term can be expanded indefinitely, as OT4, OT5, etc., although higher numbers tend to be parodic. OT3 is more likely to appear in fandoms with multiple canonical characters operating in an ensemble.
PAIRING: A romantic/sexual linking of characters within a show, sometimes indicated with initials (“K/S” would be Kirk and Spock from the original STAR TREK) and sometimes by combining the characters’ names (“Tibbs” would be Tony and Gibbs from NCIS, for instance). Usually the reader is warned with these acronyms or combined names in the header or disclaimer so she can skip romantic relationships she doesn’t like.
PLOT BUNNIES or PLOTBUNNIES: Ever get hit with a story concept that doesn’t really go anywhere but you have to write it? You’ve just been attacked by a plot bunny! Possibly inspired by John Steinbeck: “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
POV: Stands for Point of View and much like the acronym’s usage elsewhere, refers to the perspective in which the story is written or meant to be viewed. It is sometimes also spelled with a lower case o (i.e. PoV), though the all-caps variation is common.
PWP: Stands for Porn Without Plot or more commonly now Plot? What Plot?, or also Poorly Written Porn and is used to indicate or imply that a fan fiction story contains little or no plot, but instead acts merely as a vessel for ponographic scenes.
R&R: Stands for Read and Review can also be written as “R’n’R” or r&r. It is meant as an encouragement for the reader to read the story and review it afterwards. C&C or critique and comment is also sometimes used, though not as often. Sometimes it is also used as Rate and Review.
RL FICTION: See ACTOR FICTION
RPF: See ACTOR FICTION
SI: Stands for Self-insert or Self-insertion. It refers to an author writing him or herself into their story. The resulting “character” is usually referred to as a self-insert or SI in the fan fiction community. The term is often closely associated with Mary Sue, but does not actually exclusively apply to the kinds of characters typically labeled a Mary Sue. It is a common mistake to confuse the terms ‘Mary Sue’ and ‘Self-Insert’, especially since generally Mary Sues are seen as being the kind of person the author wishes they could be and often are a form of idealized self-insertion. The two terms have distinct meanings, however.
SCHMOOP: See FLUFF
SHIP or SHIPPING: (Verb). To write fanfiction revolving around a romantic pairing.
SHIPPER: Short for “relationshipper.” The story is semi-romantic and revolves around a romantic pairing; the story itself may or may not involve graphic sex. Generally that pairing involves two series characters, not an original character paired with a series character. In some fandoms, a shipper story is strictly heterosexual; in others (such as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER), anything goes.
SHIP: (Noun). A fanfiction story revolving around a romantic pairing.
SLASH: Originally taken from descriptions of Kirk and Spock as sexual partners; the stories were labeled “Kirk/Spock” and thereafter stories about homosexual pairings–whether male/male or female/female, and whether or not they involved graphic sex scenes–were referred to as “slash” stories.
SMUTFIC: See PWP
SONGFIC: Fanfiction inspired by/heavily laden with song lyrics.
SPOILERS: Often mentioned in the headers as warnings that the story may give away plotlines from a particular episode or particular season, so people who don’t want clues about future events can avoid reading that particular story until they’ve seen the listed episodes.
SQUICK: Anything in fanfic which might make a reader queasy. What that might be varies between fandoms and even within mailing lists in a fandom. Character death is a major squick issue; sexual orientation, excessive violence or gore, or original female characters may do it for some.
TAG or EPISODE TAG: A fanfiction story written based on a particular episode of the series, usually adding an additional scene or scenes to the end.
TPTB: The Powers That Be. Generally used as a reference to the unknown bureaucratic types who actually own the movie or series we’re writing about; often referred to in headers/disclaimers. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER appropriated the term–creator Joss Whedon is known to visit BTVS message boards–for the vaguely god-like beings who run the universe in his television series.
TWT: Stands for Time? What Time? and is used when the author of a fanfiction has no particular time line in which the story takes place. This is likely a pun on the term ‘PWP’ and has been adopted in multiple fandoms.
UST or URST: Stands for Unresolved Sexual Tension and refers to a lack of full or sometimes even partial resolution of sexual tension elements within a story. May refer to the content of the fan fiction story, or to a particular interpretation of the original canon story, or to both, if the fan fiction in question is intended to address sexual or romantic subtext in the original story.
VIRTUAL SEASON: The virtual season is usually a collaborative effort to produce a compilation of fan stories or scripts portraying episodes of an entire season for a television program – usually one that has been canceled or is no longer producing new episodes. Often, these writers will elect members of their group to be the imaginary producers, head writers, editors, and other traditional roles to aid in the coordination of the virtual season’s material, direction, and continuity. Every effort is made to reproduce and carry on the details of the program as professionally as possible.
WAFF: Stands for “Warm And Fluffy Feeling” or “Warm And Fuzzy Feelings” and is applied to stories which are intended to invoke those feelings in the reader, i.e., “feel good” stories. Also referred to as “fluff” or “schmoop.” Fluff often refers to a short story, chapter, or part of a chapter in which readers get a soft, heartwarming feeling.
WHUMP or WHUMPER or WHUMPAGE: Another term for hurt/comfort. A little more calculating than the usual h/c. A whumpage is generally written as an excuse to pound a character.
WIP: Work In Progress. In other words, a warning that it may never be finished, and that the author may not have edited it thoroughly or thought out the plot/characterization/point of the story.
YAOI: In anime, refers to PWP stories about gay relationships, often tragic ones.
YURI: In anime, a distortion of YAOI, referring to PWP stories about lesbian relationships, often tragic.